A Successful Ila Safari Lodge Shuffle

Natasha Parker | August 2, 2023

You would think that the aftermath of a fire is mostly about water… water and ash, perhaps? This is not entirely true, or at least it was not for Ila Safari Lodge when we lost our Boma to fire recently. Yes, there is water, of course, and there is ash where chairs, paintings, and floorboards used to be. But the real aftermath of the fire — one that thankfully hurt nobody, but took away our first ever sustainably-designed space — was predominantly about admin.

Since admin is a very boring word and an even more boring process, we’ve been calling it ‘the Ila Shuffle’ instead. And we’re rather proud of how our team has managed this ‘Shuffle’ process of moving guests and staff and holiday or career dreams around at cheetah-speeds. Because whilst the process may sound boring, the impact certainly is not!

So here are the steps of the Ila Shuffle…

1 – Safeguarding Dream Safari Holidays

— Moving Guests

Two of the many options for Ila Safari Lodge guests on the move.

Ila Safari Lodge is one of our most popular properties. Since it opened in 2011, this Kafue-based lodge has steadily made its way into the hearts of agents and guests from around the world. To our immense pleasure, the lodge has also developed a passionate Zambian following.

The Green Team is proud to be here to safeguard the experiences of every guest who books to stay with us. From the moment of confirmation, their dream safari experience is in our hands.

So, on the morning that the Ila Boma burned down, every member of our Reservations Team opened their emails with the pressure of hundreds of safari holidays to sort. It was clear that the lodge wouldn’t be ready to host guests for at least another month.

Somehow, by the end of the next working day, every booking at Ila Safari Lodge within the upcoming month had been successfully moved to another Green Safaris property.

This was achieved with minimal stress for agents and guests and much frantic juggling on the part of our reservations team. Our new sister property, Sausage Tree Camp, was just the rabbit-in-the-hat we needed, but all our properties and camps were popular alternatives.

Ila guests were spoilt for choice when it came to alternative destinations.

The original plan for Ila was to create a new, temporary boma so that the lodge could open quickly and fewer guests would be impacted. But it soon became apparent that there would be a better process in the works, which would mean a much later re-opening date for Ila. And so, within two weeks of the Ila fire, all bookings for the next five months had been successfully placed in other properties.

So, it was wonderful to hear that the team’s Herculean efforts did not go unnoticed. Mario from Voss had this to say about the Ila Guest Shuffle:

I was so sad to hear about the fire at Ila – what a lovely camp it is – and I’m sure the Team at Green Safaris will do an excellent job at rebuildling the main area. However, the job that Linda and the team did to move all existing bookings to their other properties was amazing – and many guests have been upgraded to some of their other properties. Since they are all great as well, I am excited for all guests to experience them.

Although guests were sorry to lose their chance to experience Ila Safari Lodge, there was much excitement at the seamless moves to our other properties. After all, who would be upset to find themselves booked in at Sausage Tree Camp in the Lower Zambezi, Tongabezi Lodge or Sindabezi Island upstream of Victoria Falls, Shawa Luangwa Camp in the heart of South Luangwa, or our Chisa Busanga Camp nest rooms?

Here is the review from a guest who was recently moved to Sindabezi Island for her birthday booking:

I would like to thank you so much for making our stay at Sindabezi possible! You definitely have a great team in place, and I hope the next time I am there it will be the same faces. We felt soooo welcome, the environment was so relaxing and everything just felt so top notch. Overall, out of 10, I would give a 20 lol. In short, my birthday was everything I dreamed of and more, thank you. We will definitely be return guests, and I pray Ila will be up and running soon because that’s my next vacation plan.

2 – Safeguarding the Green Team

— Moving Staff

Ila Team smiles at Tongabezi, Shawa, and Chisa

We are proud to say that every Ila Safari Lodge team member is still employed. Most have been moved to other properties to share knowledge and training and to provide support with the sudden influx of Ila Safari Lodge guests. The energy levels at every one of our properties have skyrocketed since this move as the teams come together to do what they love best.

But don’t take our word for it; here is what the team has to say:

Moving back to Chisa after the tragic accident was like coming back home. Chisa was the first camp I came to that introduced me to the beauty of the Kafue National Park.

– Mwenya

These individuals, a chef and a waiter, were unfortunately displaced from their previous lodge due to a fire incident. We have been so happy to extend a warm welcome to them and to ensure a smooth transition into their new roles. I am confident that Chef Pearson and Waiter John will not only contribute to the success of Chisa Camp but have already begun to enrich the overall guest experience.

– Chiyeso, Chisa Busanga Manager, on his new team members.

Having some of our original Ila Lodge team members join us at Tongabezi Lodge feels like a beautiful reunion, a celebration of shared experiences and cherished memories. Their presence adds a touch of familiarity and warmth to our new surroundings, reminding us of the bonds we have built together.

As we embark on this exciting journey, our vision extends beyond the merging of teams. Its about the beautiful exchange of knowledge and expertise that lies ahead. In the next few months, we plan to create a platform for collaboration, where our two teams can seamlessly share their unique insights, ideas and skills.

Welcome, my dear Ila Lodge team members, to this new chapter of shared growth and discovery. Lets create magic together and paint the canvas of hospitality with hues of passion, Unity and excellence.

– Malemia, Tongabezi General Manager and previous manager of Ila Safari Lodge, on his reunion and new team members.

Ila Safari Lodge: A Boma for the Future

— The next step

Our guests and staff have been happily moved for the short term. But we are planning for Ila Safari Lodge’s triumphant return as soon as possible!

The rest of the Ila team is clearing space at Ila and preparing for a brand new Boma to take its place. Our Director and Founder, Vincent Kouwenhoven, has already been inspired by his previous work and has created a new design based loosely on his experiences designing Chisa Busanga Camp’s Nest rooms. Once again, we are working in collaboration with brilliant architect Bert Meerstadt. Vincent and Bert both spent a day at Ila just last week, measuring the space and confirming that their dream for the new Boma can become a reality.

Watch this space for more updates on the Ila Boma design, which we can confidently say is going to be worth the wait.

The Ila clearing crew is ready for action.

Two people sitting next to a table and looking across the Luangwa River at the sun rise in the South Luangwa National Park
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